No sign of Iran’s protests dissipating
The Iranian regime continues to employ brute force to crack down on protesters. But the people of Iran have been courageously protesting against the clerical regime for nearly two months now. The persistence of the uprising has given people a real sense of empowerment and optimism. This belief is cementing for many that the regime’s days are numbered and its overthrow is finally within reach.
Even if some argue that it is still too early to predict the final outcome, these developments are a clear game changer. The international community should immediately update its policies accordingly. The extraordinary and unprecedented uprising conveys the increasing power of the population against a decadent theocracy.
This is a pivotal moment for Iran, the Middle East and the world community, all of which have long suffered from the regime’s viciousness, terrorism, regional adventurism and nuclear threats. This is the time for change.
The world can no longer ignore the theocracy’s abysmal human rights record. Thanks to decades of brave resistance by the Iranian people, and particularly women, many in the international community are now alive to the fact that these people have a legitimate right to overthrow a cruel, tyrannical regime that continues to massacre its people — as it did in 1988, when 30,000 political prisoners were murdered. The world should finally abandon a policy that has appeased the mullahs in Iran for four decades, unnecessarily extending their unbelievable reign of terror.
There is convincing evidence that the regime is losing the battle with the Iranian nation. Among the most persuasive is the fact that massive demonstrations erupted less than 24 hours after the regime’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, last month issued his boldest warning yet in a bid to intimidate the population into submission. People in many cities, including Tehran, Karaj, Shiraz, Tabriz and Arak, defied Khamenei’s warning and took to the streets with even more ferocity than before. Khamenei’s pictures and posters were burned and the vehicles of security forces were torched. Protesters clashed with security forces in scenes that have now become normal.
The latest protests also defied threats by another linchpin of the regime’s authoritarian character, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami. The IRGC is now leading the suppression and Salami recently claimed that the protests had been dealt with and everything was under control. His mentality cannot be simply dismissed as the musings of a fanatic who is out of touch with reality.
Every murdered protester’s funeral continues to be a rallying cry, ensuring the protests’ longevity.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
These are further signs of the sheer desperation of a regime in deep trouble. Khamenei and Salami are the most powerful duo within the establishment. So, the regime pulled out its aces but the protesters refused to be intimidated. That should be terrifying the regime’s supporters and suppressive forces.
The uprising has now spread to many cities and it appears to cut across all sectors of society, even high school students, who are showing remarkable political courage and consciousness.
Contrary to some rudimentary narratives, the IRGC is heavily involved in the suppression. But its forces seem to be exhausted and demoralized. Recently revealed orders by the IRGC’s top brass, including Salami, to quickly crush the persistent protests are perhaps the best illustration that the suppressive machinery is running out of gas.
The nationwide uprising shows no sign of dissipating, with protesters taking the fight to the regime’s security forces and defying bullets, imprisonment and torture.
Undaunted by the misogynistic theocracy’s brutality, women have continued to lead the charge and their actions are becoming more audacious by the day. Resistance units affiliated with the main opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, are playing a key role as well. Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, Salami and many Friday prayer leaders have all previously openly expressed concern and exasperation over the influence and impact of the opposition, which is evident in the protesters’ chants nationwide.
Every murdered protester’s funeral continues to be a rallying cry, ensuring the protests’ longevity. According to religious and cultural rituals in Iran, people mourn on the 40th day after a person’s death. This is a nightmare for a regime that has killed hundreds of protesters so far. Every death becomes a rallying cry, further eroding the regime forces’ confidence and morale.
It is incumbent on the international community to go beyond verbal condemnation and even symbolic sanctions. All European ambassadors must be recalled from Tehran. Diplomatic ties need to be severed immediately. International mechanisms to hold the regime accountable for its crimes must be activated. The world community must recognize the rights of the Iranian people to use any means available to them to defend themselves against the state crackdown. The winds of change seem to be blowing in Iran. The world must embrace it.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.